You may have a love/hate relationship with overnight summer camp. On the one hand, it’s a great week to invest deeper in kids’ faith, build relationships, and just have fun together. On the other hand, camp food is not always the greatest, and your back may not appreciate sleeping on a bunk bed for a week.
But going to overnight summer camp, whether you attend one that runs the show for you or you create and run your own, is a critical event in a child’s faith development, especially as they move into their preteen years and eventually up into the youth group. Here’s why:
- Summer camp creates memories. The fun and shared memories created at camp help bond a group of kids and leaders like not much else can. My husband (a youth pastor) says that camps and retreats are like relationship-building on steroids. This is especially important for your preteens who are about to graduate into the youth ministry. When a group of preteens has shared memories from a trip, a special event, or even a conversation, it helps them create bonds that give them the feeling of belonging they desire. Preteens who enter the youth group with established friendships are more likely to stick around to establish more. (And if you want more tips, ideas, and resources for helping your preteens transition successfully from children’s to youth ministry, check out our brand new online training session about this critical transition.)
- Summer camp teaches independence. Spending the night away from home is a developmental step all kids have to take at some point, and summer camp provides a safe and caring environment for that practical skill. Maybe they even learn the skill of ordering their own food at the Chick-fil-a you stop at on the way to camp. Or how to keep track of and be responsible for their own belongings while at camp. No matter what it looks like, overnight camp provides some practical developmental practice for kids as they continue to grow, mature, and become more independent.
- Summer camp helps kids unplug. Most camps either have a cell phone/device policy OR they’re so tucked back in the woods no devices work there anyway. This is a GOOD thing! Summer camp gives kids the opportunity to unplug, both from their devices and from anything they may be dealing with in life. It allows them to step away from any extra burdens or pressure, have fun, and process any hard feelings they may be experiencing. They have the opportunity to get outside, be active, and spend time in God’s creation, away from the expectations and technology that can often cause stress and anxiety.
- Summer camp connects kids to a trusted adult. Recent research from Barna and Awana shows that the number one factor in a child’s faith lasting beyond high school is the presence of a committed, caring adult in their lives. Whether it’s the leaders you take with you to camp or the camp counselors, kids have the opportunity to interact with role models who care about them and are there to spend time investing in them.
- Summer camp grows kids spiritually. Of course, one of the biggest reasons overnight summer camp is so valuable to your ministry is that it provides a time of focused, intentional Bible time and discussions that allow you to grow kids deeper in their faith. If kids are hearing from a special camp speaker, it can be great for them to hear a new voice. If kids are hearing from someone they already know, it’s a great opportunity to go deeper than you can go on a Sunday morning or mid-week program.
So what’s your favorite summer camp to attend with your kids or preteens? There are lots of options out there! No matter what you choose, where you go, or how your back feels at the end of the week, know that you’re making an important investment in the lives of your kids when you take them to summer camp.
And hey, if you’re going to camp this summer for the first time or the fortieth, this So You’re Going To Camp Bundle can help you with all of the administrative and logistical tasks needed to set up your week at camp with ease! Learn more about this awesome administrative bundle here.